at home in the street

At Home in the Street


Tobias Hecht, an American anthropologist, researched and wrote a book on street children of metropolitan recife and the neighboring areas. He wrote a detailed volume in the response on how these street children were being treated and put acrossHistory the sensation of this difficult subject tried by many writers. He researched on this subject for fifteen months in the street of recife where many writers were basing their research.

Anthropology is the study of humanity and has origins in both humanities and social sciences. Ethnography is a branch of science that gives a clear method of writing that uses field researches to give a descriptive study of the human societies. Anthropology ahs been distinguished from other types of research due to it’s in depth research and analyses of a given human discipline, long term solutions and comparative analyses.

American Anthropologist is a journal of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and known for having published wide range of anthropology work.

Hecht’s volume

Hecht, an American anthropologist has descriptively described the situations of the street children from the view of the children themselves. He produced a volume on this complex and complicated topic. He used different methodologies to come up with his conclusions that were quite different from others. Example, he came up with a figure of 39,000 of all Brazilian street children compared to 30 million (UNICEF), 3 million (Time and The New Yorker) and 7 million, the figure that is mostly used by other sources.

Hecht used different methodologies in his research that landed him to distinctive results and findings. (Hecht, 1998)

Hecht’s methodologies

Hecht’s methodologies on his research were well analyzed and proved that he was a real anthropologist. The three methodologies he used in his research were triangulation, case study method, questionnaires and participant observations method. The three methods used gave him a distinctive conclusion in his research that was different from other authors that had done the same kind of research. (John, 2008)


Triangulation is collecting data by employing two or more methods so as to avoid researcher bias and improve validity. Triangulation of data collection, provides with different ways of looking at the same phenomenon, and thus is helpful in consistent analysis of reliable data. Also, interestingly, if the different methods employed result in different data, should not be regarded as being inconsistent, but would interest the researcher to further delve deeper into the issue. Triangulation improves the quality of the results obtained. Though this view is questioned by some other researchers who argue that triangulation ensures that data is obtained through different sources, but does not assure validity or reliability of the data. Thus triangulation only provides a deeper understanding; it does not guarantee validity

Though Hecht shows the importance of triangulation by giving unique results some authors argue that triangulation is logically relevant only with a positivist framework. Accuracy and credibility of the research can be enhanced through triangulation of data sources and analytical perspectives. It was evident that triangulation only deepens one’s understanding of the issue being researched; it does not guarantee increase in validity of the findings. The quality of a research is not only how reliable and valid the data and findings are, but also how useful the findings are in solving the problems of the organisation. (John, 2008)

Case study method

Different types of case study methods are explanatory, descriptive, illustrative and experimental. The four stages Hecht used in his case study method are finding out the current situation, collecting information about the background to the present situation, gathering more specific data to test alternative hypotheses, and about important factors in the present situation, and putting forward recommendations for remedial action. Case study method refers to an event in the real life context. In his research, such a method which gives importance to the context of the work place is suitable because of the topic being researched is thought to be influenced by the context of the setting. Various techniques such as pattern matching, explanation building, time series analysis etc were used to analyse the case study evidence but importantly, analysing the evidence obtained through case study method is the difficult aspect of case studies.

Analysis of data leads to information, from which inferences can be made, and recommendations can be arrived at. A high quality analysis uses all the analytic strategies exhaustively, addresses all rival interpretations, addresses the most important aspect of the case study, and the researcher displays use of own prior, expert knowledge. Case study method was useful only for generating hypotheses, not testing it. In his research, data was predominantly the responses of the participants which are qualitative, and qualitative research produces large quantities of data to provide an in-depth study. (John, 2008)

Participant Observation

The researcher using participant observation technique is in close association with the research participants in the true research setting for extended periods of time to study the patterns in the research setting. The researcher in participant observation has to play various roles with varying degrees of involvement in the actual research setting; sometimes the researcher even has to be the participant because the participants will be observed carefully by the researcher, who would then infer from these observations, the participants must be aware of the purpose and nature of the research for ethical reasons. The four roles complete participant, participant as observer, observer as participant and complete observer show the varying levels of involvement of the researcher in the events in the research setting. Interrupted involvement or discontinuous involvement is one in which the researcher does not participate much in the work, spends some time in the field during which the data would be collected through observation, interviewing etc

The complete observer or total researcher involves only observation, and not taking part in the events.

While observing the behaviours and those proceedings of the street children, he could record all their discussion and could use the information in preparing the conclusive findings. Whenever the children are having commotions, he would record and analyze what could be the probable cause of conflict. (John, 2008)


Questionnaires are the most commonly used method of data collection with positivists preferring closed question format and interpretivists or phenomenologists relying on open ended questions. Questionnaires are a popular method of data collection predominantly among researchers using quantitative methods. Constructing effective questionnaires is quite a challenge because the wording of questions as well as the structure needs special attention. Also the sample size, how to distribute the questionnaires, collating and analysing data need special attention.

The use of the questionnaires for data collection involves a lengthy procedure called pilot work which involves preparing questions, testing, correcting and retesting and wording of questions is only one aspect of pilot work. Careful consideration has to be taken when designing questionnaire, as each question has a specific job, or is a measure. The questionnaire should be designed in such a way that the purpose is well explained to the participants, and the questions are simple and short. Whether using questionnaires, or interviews, it is always important to particularly take care of structure and wording of the questions because answers to earlier questions can affect respondents. Hecht used this type of data collection that enabled him have a direct interaction with the children and the area residents and this enabled him have a deeper and wider understanding in each area of the research. (John, 2008)


Hecht was involved in the three mentioned above methods of data collection. This involved him to have a direct contact with the children and the residents which enabled him gather useful information. He also referred to other researches that were done there before by other authors that helped him have clear information no the past that was base of his research. Through this he was able to find a way forward or solution to the problem that gave him a distinctive position as an anthropologist. He used human of all kind ranging from the street children to the residents of the area and any other available sources.

The choice of his methodologies influenced children responses because he seemed to look for the solution of which the children were eager to have. His methods were well selected for some times he could not involve himself with anybody and still could gather some information that was helpful in his research.


In the research that was conducted by Hecht, it’s clear that there is so much information that has not been uncovered. The difference in the information given by different researchers shows that there is a need to have a deeper research to provide viable information. Street children would be the best sources of information for they would enable the researchers have a solution for the problem.

The viability of the research would depend on the information given and the evidence portrayed for there are different likely outcomes in the conducted research.


Hecht, T.1998, At Home in the Street: Street Children of Northeast Brazil. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

John, D. 2008, “At home in the street: Street children of Northeast Brazil” Journal of Third World Studies, Retrieved from on 13th October 2008

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